Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cranberry Bars Worth the Making!

Okay, this is something that I actually made a couple weeks ago for a cookie exchange. But I think it is well worth the mentioning because they were a hit! It is common knowledge that I frequent Starbucks. But I rarely buy their baked goods, only their coffee. Except in the wintertime, when the Cranberry Bliss Bars pay a visit. Anyone who has taken a bite of one of these knows that it is in fact blissful -- a golden blondie chock full of dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks, topped with a cream cheese frosting, more dried cranberries, and a white chocolate drizzle! Need I say more?

Well this winter, I never got a chance to go around to get one. And when I went to the Starbucks at my local grocery store, the barista informed me that they were gone for the season. Maybe he should've specified that they were only gone at his location and that I could just get it from the Starbucks down the street. But that's okay. No harm done because when it came time for me to decide what to bring to the cookie exchange, I'd found the perfect excuse to make my own cranberry bliss bars. And boy was it worth it! The recipe makes a giant 10x15 sheet of bars. . . enough to share some, eat some, savor some, and allow my 3 year old who apparently loves them as much as me to have them for a snack (and sometimes breakfast) for a week. So here follows the recipe which is a culmination of a couple different recipes I found on the web. Well worth the making!

Homemade Cranberry Bliss Bars
Bars
  • 1 c. butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp orange extract (if you don't have any you can use vanilla but the flavor won't be the same.
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup craisins
  • 3/4 c. white chocolate chips or chunks

Frosting

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp orange extract (or vanilla)
  • 1 tbsp milk

Topping

  • 1/3 c. craisins, chopped
  • 1/3 c. white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp. canola oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a 10x15 sheet pan with parchment paper. Spray paper with nonstick spray

  2. Beat butter and sugar together for the cake base. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla, beating until fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt. Then add to the butter/sugar mixture, beating well. Fold in the cranberries and white chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Spread into pan and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes (I baked mine for 23 min) or until light golden.

  3. Remove cake from oven and cool. Remove cake from pan. When cake is cool, mix all frosting ingredients and spread a thin layer over the cake. Immediately sprinkle the chopped cranberries on top. In a double boiler or microwave melt the white chocolate with the canola oil. Then place melted chocolate in decorater bag with small tip (or a sandwich bag and cut a little tip off the corner). Drizzle the white chocolate over the cake. Allow 30 minutes for the white chocolate to set before cutting.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Falling deeper. . .

into my cooking abyss. I really should've made a resolution that I could live with. Maybe I should just resolve to continue to cook as desired and just work out more, he he he. Well for starters, today was Robert's birthday so cooking was unavoidable. Right? He originally requested BBQ spaghetti for his birthday dinner, and an angel food cake (at least that is low fat). For those of you wondering, BBQ spaghetti is basically a homemade BBQ sauce mixed with slow cooked pork and put on top of spaghetti noodles. Unfortunately, I did not have the ingredients on hand for those and wouldn't you know it, when we woke up this morning it was snowing. . . again. So change of plans. New plans: Bourbon chicken, chow mein, and a marble cake with raspberry sauce. Boy, when Robert changes his plans he certainly does get more elaborate! But hey at least we had the ingredients for that, even the bourbon :-) And sides it's got to be a special occassion for me to make a marble cake in the first place. And even more special to make a raspberry sauce. I won't mention the amount of umentionable words I mumbled under my breath while straining the seeds from that stupid raspberry sauce. But in the end, it all turned out great. So Happy Birthday Robert!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Years!

Well I started off this year with a resolution to eat less and become more fit -- completely contradictory to cooking and eating all sorts of randomness. Unfortunately my resolution faltered after a mere few hours. By 12 pm on New Year's Day I was already baking something totally unneccessary and laden with fat and calories. . . and flavor. Lots of flavor! Man is it delicious! Grits pie courtesy of Paula Dean. Now anyone who has ever watched the Paula Dean show on the Food Network knows that all of her recipes are rich and filled with butter. This was no exception. But I figured that since I had just sent Robert out in the morning to get the grits, I might as well get as much as possible out of them right? I really was just very curious as to how grits pie tasted. Well according to everyone in my house, the consensus is that it is very VERY good. For anyone who has ever had chess pie, that is what it reminds me of. Sweet and buttery custard but with a little bit more texture, complimentary of the grits. Also the grits are also not gritty at well, rather smooth and soft. Within 5 hours of having taken the pie out of the oven, half of it was gone. Leila scarfed down her piece and eagerly asked for seconds. We decided to hold out and save the other half for breakfast the next day. . . after all, it's got grits in it :-)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

At long last. . .

I've returned to my blog. It's been forever, but I suddenly felt the desire to blog again. So here I am. And while I don't think I am going to cover all the things that have been missed these past few months, I have returned with more goodies! Fried pickles this time! Now that the warm weather has finally arrived in Connecticut, I've kicked up a gear in my cooking. Seems like I can't stay out of the kitchen lately. . . making everything from Smore's eggrolls, potato chips, fried brussel sprouts to orange cream cookies and fried pickles. For something that's so yummy to nosh on, they're really a breeze to make. I hadn't even planned on making them. Robert was grilling burgers for lunch and while preparing the condiments, I got a sudden whim for fried pickles. I decided to give them my own personal spin my breading them in panko bread crumbs seasoned with Cajun seasoning. Personally I thought they were pretty delish! And while this posting is pretty short, I think it may be the beginning of longer ones to come in the future! Stay tuned!

Friday, March 27, 2009

I miss the warm weather :-(

But at least it was semi-warm for a couple days! So we decided to make the most of it and eat some ice cream...outside! Gabrielle is ALWAYS bugging me to eat ice cream cones, so finally I broke down and bought some. Good thing it was warm enough to go outside, because (as you can see from Leila's face) they L<3ved it! Of course it wasn't hot (I'm still in Conneticuit you know), as you can see my girls are still wearing their jackets.

My girls are sooo cute!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How It All Came Together

Tonight's little creation came together due to a few different things. For starters, Robert left again today which put me in a sad poopy mood that could only be alleviated by baking something. My initial decision had been orange cupcakes, random I know. But a friend suggested that maybe I should take a cupcake break -- which I thought "Why would I want to do that?" But a little break wouldn't hurt. Then while I was coming home from the airport, I stopped at Starbucks to get a green tea latte. Green tea is like my new thing now. And while I was driving I was thinking about how if I could just get my hands on some matcha powder (that's cheaper than $42) then I could make my own green tea lattes. Then I realized what an idiot I've been! Why the heck did I go to the health food store looking for green tea powder? I buy all of my Asian groceries at the Asian grocery stores, and green tea powder is Asian, so shouldn't I go to the Asian grocery store for it? Duh! So I decided to try the Korean grocery store just down the street and wouldn't you know it, they had TWO different types of green tea powder. And the best part is that they were $6! Can you believe it? Six dollars for an ounce and a half! So anyway, you would think that the first thing I'd make is a green tea latte. But I'd already had one today and I got too sidetracked. Or maybe more cupcakes -- but I just made green tea cupcakes. Instead, I made another recipe that I'd been eyeing - a green tea roll cake! Like a jelly roll (which I've actually never made), except with green tea and whipped cream. It turned out being really strong, like a VERY strong cup of green tea. But the sweetened matcha flavored whipped cream helps to tone the flavor down some. I thought it went perfect with a mug of hot water (is that weird? that I drink plain hot water?) I'm sure it'd be good with a glass of warm milk as well. I think if I make it in the future, I'd use a little less matcha powder and maybe a little more sugar for a bit of a sweeter taste. The roll itself turned out pretty good I think, considering it was my first time. It could've been prettier. Oh well. And as for my green tea latte, I'll be making one tomorrow for sure!

More Chicken!

Well I finally got around to making that prosciutto wrapped chicken yesterday. Robert requested it which somewhat surprised me because we've had so much chicken lately. Then I remembered that he can eat chicken every day of the week. And I suppose that if I can make it a different way each day, maybe I could too. Eh, maybe not. But I was surprised by this recipe. I couldn't quite imagine how all the flavors would come together -- prosciutto, chicken, basil, mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes. It was kind of like caprese salad stuffed in chicken. In the end, it turned out to be really good served with a side of rice pilaf and some veggies. None of the flavors were super overwhelming. And Robert liked it too -- which was the important thing since he requested it :-P

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patty's Day!

I am sure that it has become common knowledge that in my home, a holiday is synonomous with food. To be honest, everything and everyday means food here, but when there's a holiday, I tend to get a little bit extreme. And even though we have no Irish in the family (as far as we know, except I wouldn't be surprised if there was), St. Patrick's Day was a good excuse to whip some things that I've never made before. Actually, make that a lot of things that I've never made before. For dinner, we had the ever so traditional corned beef and cabbage. . . except it's not very traditional because I've never had it before! Technically, what I made was New England Boiled Dinner because I added potatoes and carrots to the corned beef and cabbage. I took the easy way out and made it all in my slow cooker. But I was really surprised with how good it turned out. I didn't expect it to be so tender and tasty. I could definately eat corned beef again, even when it's not St. Patrick's Day. The girls didn't really seem to care for it at all. They are not real meat and potato eaters. On the other hand, they REALLY like bread. And lucky for them, I made a loaf of Irish Soda Bread to go with dinner. Once again, I've never had Soda Bread before, but based on the descriptions that I read, I am pretty sure I made it right. It was actually really easy, the easiest bread I've ever made -- considering there are only 4 ingredients involved. I almost forgot that I was going to make it, and didn't remember until an hour before dinner. Yet, I managed to mix it and bake it just in time for dinner! I was really surprised by the taste and consistency because I didn't think something so simple would be very tasty.

And of course, since I am the crazy cupcake lady, I HAD to whip up some cupcakes. I was actually torn in what kind to make because one friend told me that I should make mint cupcakes, and another really wanted me to make Green Tea cupcakes. I had originally decided on the green tea cupcakes because I had read about how green tea powder naturally makes food green (big surprise there). So even though green tea isn't very Irish, at least the cupcakes would've been green, which is in the spirit, right? Well, in the end, I couldn't make a decision, which could only mean one thing -- a whole lot of cupcakes! Because I thought mint cupcakes were just too plain and easy, I had to take it up a notch. I almost immediately thought chocolate mint, but since the last few batches of cupcakes I've made have been chocolate, I really wanted something lighter. The result -- Bailey's Mint Chocolate Irish Cream Cupcakes with chocolate chips and a Mint Cream Cheese Frosting. Say that three times fast! It ended up being a real flavor explosion. The only thing was that I had to make the batter a little denser than normal because I wanted the chocolate chips to float in it. So not my typical light, fluffy airy cupcakes. . . instead it was more like a pound cake and rather filling. But with the mint frosting, I think they made a really good combination. I am not usually a fan of chocolate chips in things, but I think these worked really well.

As for the green tea cupcakes. Well, there were definately some issues there. For starters, the recipe called for matcha powder, which is basically the green tea powder. The problem with that is that the local health food stores carries it for $42.50 per ounce! Yes that's right! And since the recipe required about an ounce, they would've been the most expensive cupcakes I've ever made and eaten in my life! And what if I ruined them, then that would be $50 down the drain. Well, either way, I wasn't going to be $43 worth of green tea, that's probably more expensive than coke (not that I would know of course). So I decided on a considerably cheaper substitute - sensha powder, which is another type of green tea, except it's sold at the commissary for 2.95 a box and is marketed as Iced Green Tea powder. I think taste wise, it was a worthy substitute. Unfortunately, the batter didn't take on the hue of green that I would've gotten with the matcha powder, which is much darker. It was barely discernable as being green. But that was nothing compared with the fact that I forgot an EXTREMELY important ingredient. In the past, I have told friends on more than one occasion that you cannot bake without baking powder or baking soda. I wish I had told myself that before I put my green tea cupcakes in the oven. It wasn't until I was cleaning up that I realized that I'd forgotten a key ingredient, and that's why my cupcakes looked exactly the same as they did when I put them in the oven. Good thing I didn't spend $43 on that matcha powder. . . I really would've been crying then! Luckily, the batter was enough to make two batches, so I was able to fix the rest of the batter and the second batch of cupcakes turned out perfectly risen. I topped them off with whipped cream, and they reminded me of mini green tea lattes! And I could almost say that because they're green tea, they're good for you!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thai Mango Chicken

I was originally supposed to make proscuitto wrapped chicken for dinner. But when it came time to actually make dinner, I realized I was missing a few things. Determined not to make a run to the store, I started trying to brainstorm other things that I could make with the already defrosted chicken. While I was frantically trying to figure out what we were going to eat, Robert decided to cut the 4 ripened mangoes that were sitting on the counter. And thus dinner was born! Amazingly enough, I had all the ingredients that I needed to make the recipe, from the red pepper (which we never have) to the cilantro. The only thing we didn't have was fish sauce, which was easy to do without. A little salt replaced the saltiness that the salt wouldn't provide. And while the recipes called for some type of chili sauce, I just ended up using Sriracha (which is Thai too, so it couldn't have been too far off the mark). It turned out to be really, really good. I couldv'e eaten the whole pot all by myself! It was so amazing to me because the sauce was sweet, salty, sour, and spicy all in the same bite. It was like one flavor after another! At first we didn't think the girls would eat because it definately had a little kick to it. But they seem to be acquiring a taste for spicy foods. They certainly didn't complain. I am eager to make this recipe again. Yum yum!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Car Wash!

The weather has actually been pretty decent lately, which I am grateful for. I could definately handle it being a little warmer, but hey, I'll take what I can get. Robert decided it was warm enough to wash the car (I secretly disagreed), but the van was looking pretty dirty from all the sand and salt it's accumulated with the snowstorms. Even washing the car is a lot more fun when you've got little ones who are sooo excited about anything new. Gabrielle actually helped to wash, and she was pretty serious about her duties. As for Leila, well Leila had a much better time just splashing around in the mud puddles that the water had created. She was really jumping around and getting a kick out of it! By the time the car was clean, everyone else was dirty, and Leila's socks and shoes were soaked! I still think it needed to be about 30 degrees warmer to be out getting wet, but who am I to argue with fun?